"It's a phenomenon in our culture," Lisa Petersen, clinical director of the Eating Recovery Center of Sacramento, CA stated. "It's troubling, but not surprising, that we see this subset growing rapidly. We see these permutations of healthy lifestyle, and what you hear will affect what you glom onto."
Orthorexia typically starts with a resolution to eat healthy and avoid fatty, processed foods that cause obesity, high blood pressure, and other common health problems. "For some, however, those good intentions spiral into an obsession with food so intense that it weighs on a person's work and social life and leads to severe weight loss," Caiola states.
Pop culture encourages obsessive thoughts of healthful food with social media accounts like Instagram encouraging young people to 'tweet-what-you-eat.'
"Now all of sudden you can get online and you can see how strict you are compared to other people," Thomas Dunn, associate professor of psychology, said. "There's a sense of superiority. You've removed dairy from your diet and eggs? Well, I can do better than that."
- Spending more than 3 hours a day thinking about healthful food
- Continually limiting the number of foods acceptable to eat
- Suffering social isolation because of a limited diet
- Feeling guilt or self-loathing when a strict regimen isn't followed
- Advocate a lifestyle that doesn't involve restriction or labeling
- Encourage moderation and balance
- Seek a compromise. Even if you're somewhere where there's seemingly "nothing to eat," you can still find a way to take care of yourself and your kids - which could mean grabbing a fast-food salad
- Try not to demonize foods as "good" or "bad"
- Consult a nutritionist to sort through conflicting health advice you receive
- Allow for growth, change, and fluctuation
- If necessary, see a therapist who can help with the emotional components of potential eating disorders, such as poor self-esteem or a need to feel in control
And remember, there's a healthy way to be healthy!